My son is 3 years and 8 months old. He starts to cry when any of his friends in school makes any mistake. For example, if his friends make any mistake in writing, he starts to cry. If his friends are sharing their bicycles, he cries and forces the owner of the bicycle to ride the cycle. How to change this behavior of forcing others to follow the instructions or advice given to him?


1 Answer 1


Children (usually) live by a routine from birth until... well, pretty much their entire childhood. But until they attend nursery, pre-school or school then that routine is enforced only by parents, and us parents do tend to keep things the same every day and every night. We make sure they eat at specific times, have a bath at specific times, and go to bed at a specific time. Kids thrive on routines and they get comfort from certain things being the same every night - they may want the same story read to them every bedtime, and they may have little quirks which we allow them such as leaving the door ajar, or a nightlight on, whatever.

Children can experience uncomfortable feelings or urges that something has to be "just right" or "just so". It is almost like a form of OCD, but don't worry - it seems to be quite normal in children. My own daughter went through this. If I ever changed part of her routine she would cry and declare "that is not usual!!"

It is possible that your son is experiencing something similar - he expects a certain outcome from something, and when it doesn't happen the way he expects, it is unsettling for him, and he has a compulsion to put it right.

At school, he is experiencing "chaos", and other children controlling situations. This is a really good life experience and one of the main reasons we send our kids to school! At home, parents have a tendency to quickly "fix" things if something makes them upset. If they get given a blue cupcake instead of a pink one and we see their bottom lip drop we immediately switch it to avoid a scene. They don't get this at school and it can be a shock at first, especially if they don't have siblings causing "chaos" at home. In the long-term though, this is good for them. It is preparing them for adult life, when your cupcakes don't get switched.

As with most childhood quirks, there are two possibilities. It could be a sign of something lasting, such as a form of OCD. Don't worry about such a possibility - if he did have a problem like this, help is available and lots of people with conditions learn to control and live with them. The other more likely possibility is that this is just something transient that will pass if you are patient.

If what I said about routine strikes a chord with you, then perhaps you might try "mixing things up" a bit. Try not to be so strict with routines. Introduce nice, but surprising things that break up his routine a little. Try and show him that change is good. If, like me, you hate dirt and mess, try and get over that and introduce him to the joys of "messy play" - get a sand pit, do some painting - try and show him that things don't have to have a rigid outcome to be fun. Also, if you do have that tendency to "fix" things that aren't quite right, try to cut back on that a little and in small ways show him that things don't have to be "perfect".

Try talking to him about an incident after he has calmed down. Ask him how it made him feel. Children aren't used to describing their feelings but he may say something to you that you can interpret.

On the specific issue of how he deals with other children, you should explain to him (again, long after the incident when he is calm and comfortable) that other children should be allowed to do what they want too - just like him. Ask him how he would feel if he was riding a bike and someone else took it away from him.

If issues like this persist or the situation worsens, you don't think your own efforts are helping, and you genuinely think there may be an underlying condition then talk to your child's GP. If you get a referral somewhere, don't worry. Just go along with it, you may find you get a reassurance that everything is normal rather than a diagnosis of something. It seems a cliche to say "it's probably just a phase", but only because it is true - kids have loads of phases, and more go through things like this than you might think. Things like this don't happen because you're not a good parent - you're a good parent for noticing. Many wouldn't notice, and the kids still turn out fine.

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